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Disney Comes to School

July 31, 2013

By Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaff

Disney World is probably a bit crowded this time of year, but that’s not the reason some school districts have decided to bring the themes of the company to their own communities.

We’re not talking about riding the spinning teacups, we’re talking about customer relations and morale.

According to the Miami Herald, Broward County is one of many school districts around the country that has hired the Disney Institute to get folks a bit more enthusiastic.

In my own state of New Jersey, the highly ranked Elizabeth School District was one of the first schools in the country to seek guidance from the Institute, according to a 2011 article in NJ Today. The story stated that 200 employees were offered training over six months, with a focus on a shift in culture.

“Employees need to know that their jobs are vitally important…” one district representative is quoted as saying.

The Disney Institute website lists four key performance indicators they work to improve with clients: customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, decreased employee turnover and better cost efficiency.

As for the Broward County School District, the article in the Herald says they district has budgeted $40,000 for the Disney Institute to, “to evaluate their organizational culture and customer service.”

And so, our school districts have joined the ranks of Häagen–Dazs and Volvo in turning to the Disney Institute to improve their KPIs.

There is no doubt that the culture within a school or district influences student experience and parental involvement. According to the Herald, Broward turned to Disney to help keep up with the appeal of charter schools.

But one can’t help wonder what it means when a company synonymous with temporary escape and make-believe is guiding our educational systems.

Clearly, it’s the substance behind the illusion that is being tapped from the experts at Disney. Still, given the limited resources of any school district, one hopes the money and time invested in such novel alliances produces results that last longer than a fairy godmother’s magic and that education is still the prize.

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